Special counsel Robert Mueller and his team of prosecutors just dropped a big hammer on the Trump clan, and you can be sure that more is coming.
With Friday’s announcement by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein of the indictment of 13 Russians and three Russian entities on eight counts including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and bank fraud, and identity theft, Mueller has just backed Trump into a corner. And while the president continues playing a con man’s game of bait–and–switch, Mueller is playing 3–D chess at an entirely different level. Trump is way out of his league.
The first thing the indictment does is to establish that a genuine crime has been committed by Russian operatives, the result of a vast and sophisticated criminal conspiracy directly linked to Vladimir Putin. This completely destroys Trump’s many claims that Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections is a “hoax.”
Trump has been doing this for nearly two years, as USA Today points out, including stating at a 2017 rally that, “The Russia story is a total fabrication.” We now know that claim is patently false, which Trump also probably knew when he said it. Add to that the president’s bizarre defense of Putin on multiple occasions, and it’s clear that Trump is in some pretty deep shit.
After meeting with Putin last year, Trump said he had asked the Russian leader if the Kremlin had attacked the U.S. elections. “I said, ‘Did you do it?’ He said, ‘No, I did not, absolutely not.’ I then asked him a second time, in a totally different way. He said, ‘Absolutely not,’” Trump said.
At the time, Trump repeatedly took Putin’s word over the broad consensus by his own country’s intelligence community that the Russians did, in fact, attack the U.S. elections. Now we know exactly how they did it.
Another element of the indictment is that it adds a layer of protection to prevent Trump from firing Mueller, as he clearly has sought to do for months. By going after the Russian operatives and financiers first, Mueller has set Trump up: If the president fires the special counsel now, Trump will be seen to be overtly defending a Kremlin–backed Russian conspiracy against the United States. And that would be treasonous enough to get him impeached, some analysts say.
Trump’s only response so far has been to continue his amateurish game of checkers while Mueller already has him in checkmate. After the indictment was announced, Trump tweeted an easily discredited and distracting statement. “Russia started their anti-US campaign in 2014, long before I announced that I would run for President. The results of the election were not impacted. The Trump campaign did nothing wrong - no collusion!” Trump tweeted.
Aside from the fact that Trump has chosen to defend himself instead of the country in light of such serious accusations, which screams of a guilty conscience, the president claims that because the Russian operation began in 2014, it somehow vindicates his family and him. Among several examples that Trump clearly was thinking of running for president before 2014 is his application for a trademark of “Make America Great Again” in November 2012, just days after the previous presidential election. That trademark was granted in July 2015, CNN Money reported at the time.
In November 2013, Trump was in Moscow for the Miss Universe pageant, where he praised Putin. “I do have a relationship with him,” Trump said. “He’s done an amazing job – he’s put himself really at the forefront of the world as a leader in a short period of time,” he added, according to The Guardian.
Then, in September and December of 2014, he tweeted these:
Another interesting detail of the indictment is that it confirms the fake Twitter account @TEN_GOP, which purported to have been created by the Tennessee Republican Party, was in fact created and operated by the Russian troll farm. Kellyanne Conway, Donald Trump Jr., Michael Flynn, Michael Flynn Jr., Roger Stone, and Brad Parscale all retweeted content from this fake Russian Twitter account, as Vanity Fair reported last year. Donald Trump Jr. retweeted the account three times and followed it until it was suspended, the magazine noted.
Is it a coincidence that all of these key members of the Trump campaign, including the president’s own son, were promoting an element of Russia’s cyberattack against the United States? We’re likely to find out soon. And no amount of tweeting by the president is going to prevent the truth from coming out.